Saturday, 25 October 2014
We proclaim we are Christians, we go to church on Sunday, other days even, we pray, and we fast perhaps. But is that enough?
When we get to meet God, will we say: “I helped in church every week. I cleaned the church and arranged the flowers. Please let me in Heaven.” or “I served on the church council for years, I was responsible for the readers’ rota and I read in church on Sundays many times. I typed and printed the weekly church newsletter. Please let me in.”
Is this what it means to be a Christian?
Or should we be a channel of His peace as St Francis of Assisi prayed. Or help the poor and destitute as Mother Theresa did.
"My brothers and sisters, what good is it for people to say that they have faith if their actions do not prove it? Can that faith save them? Suppose there are brothers or sisters who need clothes and don't have enough to eat. What good is there in your saying to them, “God bless you! Keep warm and eat well!” — if you don't give them the necessities of life? So it is with faith: if it is alone and includes no actions, then it is dead." James 2:14-17.
Friday, 24 October 2014
It was enjoyable I suppose, if you like that sort of thing, and all the proceeds were for a good cause, (I never bothered to ask what), so why not go as a family and enjoy ourselves. Better than watching the football on TV with a few cans of Guinness, I should say!
I was getting rather tired so as we were walking around I noticed a young lady setting up her stall with a big notice saying "I can paint you!" Well, I've always fancied a portrait painting of myself, rather dashing and distinguished as I am. It could hang in pride of place at our house and generations thereafter will admire what a great ancestor they are from.
So I sat on the chair and said to the lady I'll wait until she has finished setting up her stall. I must have been more tired than I thought because I fell asleep rather quickly. About twenty or so minutes later I was awakened by the family around me laughing and cheering. I eagerly looked for my portrait ... but alas ... there was none.
The stupid woman had painted my face instead. She was a children's face painter and had assumed that I wanted my face painted.
She painted a black nose, yellowish face, and whiskers all over my face. She said it was a tiger and the family liked it so much they also wanted their faces painted. Not to spoil their fun, I agreed to keep my face paint and not wipe it off.
I soon forgot that I looked ridiculous as the only adult with a painted face. And it was quite embarrassing when our priest smiled benignly and said nothing.
A couple of hours later it was time to go home. As we passed the newsagent I stopped to pick up my favorite magazine and the children's comic "Feline Weekly". As I approached the owner of the shop and asked her for my magazine and comic she cried: "Oh you're such a nasty man ..." and, to my complete surprise, she hit me on the head with a rolled up newspaper.
I stepped back totally confused and was about to speak when an old lady standing behind me hit me with her umbrella and said: "You should be ashamed of yourself. A grown up man like you behaving so badly!"
"What have I done?" I asked totally bewildered.
"How could you ..." cried the lady shopkeeper, "on the very day my cat Felix died to come here and mock me with your face painted like that!"
I had totally forgotten that my face was painted like a cat. I mean ... how was I to know that her Felix had just died? It was not in the obituary columns of the local newspapers and it certainly wasn't on the six o'clock news!
I was about to explain about the church Autumn Fair and the painting lady when my two children came in the shop with their faces painted as a lion and a cheetah.
The shopkeeper cried even louder and said: "You've even encouraged your children to mock me ... how awful and nasty can you get?"
We got out of the shop hurriedly and made our way home.
I didn't mean to mock her ... honest.
I blame it all on the painting lady ... don't you?
Wednesday, 22 October 2014
The discussion during Catechism class was about vocations and the celibacy of priests and nuns.
Father Ignatius had been asked by a young pupil why priests and nuns are celibate.
“Let me see if I can answer this honestly and in personal terms,” said Father Ignatius. “There is, as you know a physical life which we all live right now, and a spiritual life which some people choose to follow at the same time.
“God wants us to enjoy our physical life and for us to live it in service of others so that He may be glorified by what we do. This can be done by being married and raising families and also indeed by remaining single in life.
“People who choose to follow a spiritual life, like Catholic priests and nuns, promise to remain chaste and not get married.”
“Like Jesus …” interrupted one of the 15 year-old students, “why did Jesus never marry?”
“That’s a good question.” Replied Father Ignatius, “in my opinion, I believe that Christ’s mission on earth was so important that He could not allow anything else to detract Him from His main objective.
“As you know, Jesus came to teach us about His Father’s Word; but more important than that; He came to offer Himself in sacrifice by dying on the Cross so that we may be reconciled with God.
“If, as you suggest, He would have married, and perhaps have children, this would have in many ways sidetracked His main mission on earth. But that’s only my opinion.”
“Do you think He ever wanted to get married?” asked another student innocently.
“Being human, I suspect He was not immune to the many feelings and emotions we experience. Yet, being God at the same time, His job on earth was to obey His Father and take on the ultimate sacrifice for us on the Cross.
“He always knew what his mission on earth was and how He would die on the Cross. And although He was tempted before His arrest, and He prayed to God that His ordeal may pass Him by, He knew and accepted that ultimately He had to obey His Father’s will; and that nothing should deflect Him from it.”
“Is it the same with priests,” asked Rose, “is their mission to teach about God and not get married. And to obey the Pope?”
“Father John got married,” corrected Paul, “he left the church and got married. Should he have done that Father?”
“It is not for me to judge what Father John did. Jesus told us never to judge each other,” replied Father Ignatius.
“Father John decided to leave the priesthood and to get married. I’m certain that he did not make this decision lightly. He must have agonized and soul-searched for a long time before deciding to leave his vocation as a priest. Which, I must add, he undertook in an exemplary manner in his time as a priest. Yet, eventually he decided to do what he felt was right for him at the time.”
“Have you ever wanted to get married and have children?” asked directly a pupil sitting up front.
The rest of the class gasped at what they felt was an impertinent question. Father Ignatius smiled and responded calmly.
“It would be a lie to deny it. Many people would like to have a family and raise children, especially if they are as well turned out as you.”
They smiled almost in unison.
“But when I decided to become a priest, I knew full well what I was giving up. Sharing my life with and loving another person, and raising a family, is a great privilege.
“Matrimony is a Sacrament which Christ taught about several times. It is a mission and a full commitment which married couples undertake throughout their lives together.
“However, by becoming a priest I promised and accepted that I would not get married.
“Having made that decision, God has rewarded me by making me a member of all your families here in this Parish.
“You and your parents have welcomed me in your homes as one of your family. I have been privileged to have been invited for meals with many of you at home. I have shared with your families moments of happiness and moments of sorrows too. I have seen many of you grow from little babies whom I have baptized many years ago, to who you are now.
“I am grateful to God and to you for welcoming me in your families.”
“Should everybody get married then,” asked Mark, “except for priests and nuns?”
“Married life is a Sacrament which we should take seriously and it is the best foundation in which to raise a family. But no, not everyone has to get married.
“Remember that God’s wish for you in this life is for you to be happy.
“Some people find happiness in marriage, others prefer to remain single. Celibacy can be a vocation too. Just like marriage.
“I have found that being single allows many people the time to do more for their communities and for the church. Things they would not have been able to do if married; when their main commitments should be to their families first.
“I have just returned from America as you know. I met there a young priest from Houston in Texas. He was brought up in a loving Catholic family and something he said to me still sticks in my mind,
“He said, ‘the way my parents brought me up, it was inevitable I’d become a priest!’
“His sister is a nun, whilst his other sisters are married and raising their families.
“So you see … his lovely parents created the conditions whilst raising their family that two of their children chose a vocation in the Church whilst the others are raising their children in the same Christian tradition their parents taught them.
“Whether you are married or not, a priest or a nun or not; the important thing that really matters is to live your life in the service of others and to glorify God at every opportunity.”
Saturday, 18 October 2014
We hear the noise of the traffic outside, an airplane flying overhead or the TV in the background and we pay no attention.
But when we listen we have to concentrate, to pay attention, to understand and remember what is being said. It is difficult and tiring.
Our level of concentration depends on who is doing the talking. From a baby saying his first words, to a child seeking our attention or our spouse or boss speaking – our level of concentration and listening differs greatly.
It therefore follows that the more important to us the speaker is, and the more vital the message, the more we have to listen carefully.
And who is more important than God?
Is He speaking to you right now?
Are you listening?
Friday, 17 October 2014
Wednesday, 15 October 2014
Tuesday, 14 October 2014
I remember being quite upset at this sudden outburst, especially since my grandma always smelled of lavender.
When I got home I told my father what the teacher had said and he asked "Which grand-mother? ... I know my own mother always smells of the sweetest delicate best quality Norfolk lavender. Although I'll admit your mother's mom does smell of potpourri!"
I explained that the teacher had not specified which grandma stank. So my father wrote a letter of complaint which I had to take to school with me.
My teacher replied that she had never commented on, nor would she ever presume to comment on, my family's body odour; although she suggested that I eat less beans!
On reading her letter my father gave me a clip round the ears. He then wrote again to the teacher apologising for the misunderstanding and explaining that beans were less expensive than other foods.
On reading my father's letter the teacher gave me detention after school.
On the Saturday I went to Confession. Our church had an old fashioned confessional which was a wooden booth where the priest sat and the penitents would kneel on either side and confess through a small window.
I told the priest all that had happened and how it was really a non-sin on my part thus deserving a lighter penance this week. He said "Don't speak so loud I can smell your grandmother kneeling on my other side!" Although he did not specify which grandma he could smell.
Then he gave me an extra penance for speaking loudly and for drawing attention to old peoples' body odour. Which technically I had not done because it was not me who started all this; it was my English teacher who said "Your grammar stinks!"
I think the church got this whole question of confession and absolution wrong somehow. I got a penance for my teacher's sin!
Moral: So did Jesus.
Saturday, 11 October 2014
Thursday, 9 October 2014
“Then a man suffering from a dreaded skin-disease came to Him, knelt down before Him, and said, ‘Sir, if you want to, you can make me clean’”. Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him. “I do want to,” He answered. “Be clean!” At once the man was healed of his disease. Matthew 8:2-3.
Some people brought Him a man who was deaf and could hardly speak, and they begged Jesus to place His hands on him. So Jesus took him off alone, away from the crowd, put His fingers in the man’s ears, spat, and touched the man’s tongue. Then Jesus looked up to Heaven, gave a deep groan, and said to the man, ‘Ephphatha’, which means, ‘Open up’. At once the man was able to hear, and his speech impediment was removed, and he began to talk without any trouble. Mark 7:32-35.
Jesus was very powerful in the eyes of the people of the time. He healed the sick and raised the dead.
Yet, at all times, He maintained the common touch with the people.
His power was such that He could just think about it, and that would heal a person or raise him from the dead.
The woman who followed Him on the way to Jairus’ house only had to touch His cloak and she was healed. Luke 8:40.
When news came that Jairus’ daughter was dead, all that Jesus had to do was click His fingers and she would be raised. But He walked all the way to the house and there He performed His miracle.
Time and again, we see Him touching people, putting His hands upon tem, holding them up and being gentle with them.
Despite His powers of instant healing, if He wanted to, He did not forget the importance of gentleness, the importance of caring, and of loving people; showing and feeling compassion towards them, and making them feel worthy of His care and attention.
Many of us are in the caring professions; whether we are doctors, nurses, counselors, pastors or whatever. And yes … I know … life is very busy … and we have millions of things to do … just tell me about it !!!
But do we have the time to stop and think: This is a person I am dealing with; not just another case in a long line of other cases. They have feelings, fears and hopes. Let me share some kindness as I do my work.
As for the rest of us, the same message applies. The fact that we don’t work in these types of jobs doesn’t mean we can switch off our kindness dispenser.
Monday, 6 October 2014
This is an effective way of checking one’s personality and characteristics. Please follow these instructions carefully. You’ll understand why later.
FIRST: As you are holding the mouse with your right hand; place two fingers from your left hand on the back of your right hand just where the two red spots are on the picture above. Imagine you’re taking your pulse, but do it on the BACK of your right hand. – see the picture above again. Of course, you won’t feel a pulse – don’t worry for now.
If you’re left handed and the mouse is in your left hand; then place two fingers from your right hand on the same place - as in the picture below.
OK … that was easy. Hold the mouse and place two fingers where the red spots are.
Now read in a loud voice, SLOWLY, the following words. Not so loud that you can be heard in the next Continent; but loud enough for someone standing 3 feet away can hear you.
OK … you’re ready for the Personality Reality Check. Holding the back of your hand with two fingers start reading slowly and aloud NOW:
Amazing how easy it is to keep someone amused isn’t it? Now try it again by reciting the alphabets. Enjoy!
Friday, 3 October 2014
Time for a Reality Check.
When you look in the mirror, what do you see? Do you like what you see?
Write down on a piece of paper five adjectives that describe you: honest, hard-working, loyal …
What else can you think of? Be honest and write down more than five adjectives if you wish.
When you’ve finished, read each one slowly in turn. How many of these adjectives would be chosen by your friends or family to describe you?
Do you see yourself as others see you?
More important, do you see yourself as God sees you?
And … that’s what frightens me.
Thursday, 2 October 2014
Father Ignatius was a kind and gentle priest, slow to anger and always jovial; and he always put his parishioners first. That’s why most of them thought nothing of approaching him first when they had a problem, no matter the time of day or night.
Early one morning, before he’d even had time to have breakfast and prepare for morning Mass, the phone rang.
“Father Ignatius … have you seen our Rosemary?” cried a frantic Mrs Butterworth.
“Eh … No … I haven’t seen her … not for a few days or so …” replied the confused priest.
“Father …” continued the voice at the other end holding back the obvious tears “we went to wake her up for school and she was not there. Her bed hasn’t been slept in … Jack is out looking for her … we don’t know where to look … we phoned her friends …”
“One moment Sally …” interrupted the priest who called most of his parishioners by their first name, except the snooty ones of course! “One moment … are you saying she left home last night?”
“We think so …” continued the distraught mother sobbing her heart out on the phone.
Father Ignatius managed to calm her down a little and promised to be there immediately after morning Mass. And yet another of his days had been disrupted from the beginning regardless of whatever plans and arrangements he had made.
An hour or so later he was at the Butterworth’s. The parents were totally heart-broken and in a state of panic. They did not know where their daughter was and whether they’d see her again. Had she left town, had she been abducted, is she safe, is she alive … the questions followed each other each one depicting its own horrific ending to a terrible situation.
When the priest managed to calm them down the couple explained that they had an argument with their fifteen-year old the previous night and her father had told her to go to her room. That’s the last they had seen of her and this morning they discovered that her room had not been slept in and she was no where to be seen.
The priest shared their agony deeply but he felt that he had to remain focused and clear-headed if he were to be of any help.
“Have you contacted the police?” he asked.
“No … we contacted all her friends, our neighbours, and the school … but not the police. Well … we didn’t know whether she’ll just turn up as if nothing happened … we didn’t want to bother them …”
The priest looked at his watch and decided that it was perhaps time to contact the authorities, assuming that is that she’s been missing since the previous night. He stayed with the anguished parents to give them moral support whilst the police asked them several questions and took a lot of details.
By late morning Father Ignatius decided to leave the Butterworths but promised to keep in phone contact every so often in case there was some news. Throughout the day he kept his promise with several phone calls and numerous prayers that the young girl might be found safely. But his every call found them more and more in despair as time passed and no news was heard of their missing daughter.
At about ten o’clock that evening, as he drove back to the church the car headlights caught a dark figure by the garage door. At first he thought it was an intruder, then he thought it was perhaps a homeless person sheltering there waiting for his return to beg for some food; an event which happened quite frequently in this poor and desolate town.
He approached the garage door slowly and to his surprise he recognized the young girl.
“Rosemary … what are you doing here?” he said gently, “your parents are worried sick about you …”
“Please don’t tell them I’m here … I can’t face them just now …” she pleaded.
“You look cold … Come in …”
He let her in and sat her by the fire, then proceeded to the kitchen to prepare her something to eat and a hot drink.
She had calmed down a little by the time he returned with a tray of food.
“Where have you been all this time Rosemary?” he asked calmly.
“I spent last night hiding in alley ways … I was frightened but I did not want to go back home … ever …
“This morning I went to the homeless shelter … no body knows me there … I told them I wanted to volunteer to help and they let me … then I thought I’d come here …” she sobbed.
“I’m glad you did … your parents said you had an argument last night … is that why you left?”
Despite her obvious distress and in between tears she managed slowly to tell him what had caused her to run away.
Quite by accident, she had discovered that she was not the natural daughter of the Butterworths. It seems that she was born in another town and was adopted there as a baby before they moved here to start a new life. They had told no one of the adoption and kept it a secret all these years until yesterday when she overheard her parents talking in the kitchen.
Father Ignatius listened calmly throughout and silently prayed for this family torn apart by love.
“Tell me Rosemary …” he asked when she finished talking, “all the time you grew up with your parents, did you at any time suspect that you were adopted?”
“No … how could I?”
“And you see my child …” he continued soothingly, “that’s precisely the point I’m trying to make. You never suspected anything. And that’s because your parents brought you up as if you were their very own … which in a lot of ways you are … they loved you as if you were their own flesh and blood.
“They loved you so much that they did all they could to give you a good and happy life.
“Your loving mother has devoted her life to you. I know for a fact that she loves you very much … how she used to worry when as a toddler you were often sick …
“I remember a few years ago when your father lost his job, he was totally out of his mind as to how he’d be able to provide for you and your mother … in some ways he reminds me of St Joseph. He adopted the baby Jesus as his own son and provided for Him as He grew up …
“I was with your parents this morning, and they were out of their minds with worry. I’ve never seen them so distraught … they didn’t know what to think … where you were … whether you were alive or …
“Anyway … I believe you know, deep inside, that your parents love you very much. I think they meant to tell you the truth some day … but I suppose they never knew when is the right time to tell you. They were probably just as scared of telling you as you are now that you have found out the truth … Shall we go and see them do you think?”
Eventually, after she could cry no longer, he drove her to her parents and witnessed the most loving reunion since the prodigal son returned to his father.